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June, 2011

Guest Villain: Justin Davis

Holy 1960s Batman, Batman! is currently playing Saturdays at 8pm. Every show features a guest villain, and the seventh guest is Justin Davis. Justin is a Hideout staple, performing in numerous shows, including Maestro. He is also a huge comic book nerd, in the best tradition of the word. He also has one ear, which makes me suspicious. So let’s talk to Justin!

Roy: You’re **REALLY** into comics. If you can remember back that far, what got you hooked? What are some of your favorite comics now?

Justin: I remember my first real dip into the giant ocean of comic books, besides random comics bought for me during hospital stays, pretty clearly actually. My grandparents took me with them on a shopping trip about an hour or so away from our home when I spotted my first comic book store. I’d never been to one before, but I felt an instinctual urge to go inside. I had limited funds, so the bag of comic books I found that said “10 books for a buck!” was perfect. Luckily, it had a bit of everything from classic superhero books like The Flash and Daredevil to more indie books like Zot!, so I had a nice introduction to a wide range of books.

My favorite books are a bit all over the place as well. From Superman to American Vampire to Invincible to Locke & Key to Green Lantern Corps to Echo to X-Factor to House of Mystery to DMZ, I tend to go with whatever I like and not any one genre or company. These are all currently published books too. The list gets much longer when I add in completed series like Ex Machina. With the big relaunch of DC Comics coming in September, it looks like I may add quite a few more books to my monthly purchases too. Also, there are a lot of writers I follow like Grant Morrison, Rick Remender, Ed Brubaker, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, Alex Robinson, and sometimes people like Jeff Parker, Jeff Lemire, Peter Tomasi, and Scott Snyder. Okay, I’ll stop now because this is already a ridiculously long answer.

Roy: What about the Batman comics? I imagine you have some pretty strong opinions. Do you have any favorite titles, past or present? And what impact do you think the 1960s TV show had on the Batman canon, for better or worse?

Justin: I was never really a big reader of Batman comics, so most of the stuff I’ve read with him in it comes from his appearances in other books like any of the incarnations of Justice League. I’ve always liked Nightwing though. Nightwing is the first Robin, Dick Grayson, all grown up. He’s currently acting as one of the Batmen (way too complicated to get into here) and he’ll go back to being Nightwing come September. Nightwing always felt to me like what Batman would be if he was a well-adjusted person. The last few years’ worth of Batman stories by Grant Morrison and a couple of other writers have ranged from good to amazing though.

The 1960s Batman show was good for comics as a whole at the time they came out for a lot of reasons, but its impact on the medium didn’t seem to leave until long afterward. On the one hand, it’s great because it helped make Batman a better known character worldwide. On the other hand, it’s frustrating because people associated all comic books with the TV show, which was most definitely on the far side of camp, even when those books were nothing like that. That labeling forced a whole period of comics starting in the late 70s but really felt in the 80s to rebel hard against that campy label, which resulted in a whole lot stories that got the “grim and gritty” label instead. It’s only recently that writers have tried to find a way to have all of that count and work together instead of against each other.

It was exponentially annoying though every time I saw an article about comic books with the words POW!, BAM!, or BIFF! In the title. Thankfully, that doesn’t really happen anymore.

Roy: Do you think your knowledge of comics will come into play in your performance this weekend? I have this vision of you busting out some arcane knowledge of Batman’s past, and everyone stopping the show to check Wikipedia. Do you have a favorite villain, Batman-related or otherwise?

KGBeast, with his pal Batman

Justin: I’m not sure I’d bring too much comic knowledge with me to Improvised 1960s Batman, because I’d be afraid it would take people out of the show. It’s likely I might say something like I stole tech from Ted Kord Industries, mention eating at Big Belly Burger, or throw out a mention about the Ventriloquist or KGBeast (a name that’s both stupid and awesome). The trick to me would be to give a nod to the comic book knowledgeable people so they can have a laugh (or groan), but in a way where the people who don’t get the reference won’t feel as if they’re missing something.

For Batman-related villains, I like characters like Clayface and Mr. Freeze. Their concepts and identities are easily summed up, plus they both have tragedy linked to them. That tragedy then links them to Batman too. You’re frightened of them, but feel some sort of sympathy for them too. Clayface is a fame-hungry shapeshifter who can’t hold his human form for too long and Mr. Freeze is regularly finding illegal ways to raise money for his terminally-ill, cryogenically frozen wife or seeking revenge on Gotham for something connected to that. Lesser known to the public characters like Deadshot are also great, because they more fully fleshed out stories. For non-Batman villains, I like characters like Lex Luthor and Sinestro (Green Lantern villain). They both do the most heinous crimes, but do so because they think they’re doing it for the greater good. They think their way is the right way, and it helps if it humiliates anyone who opposes them. That last line may make me sound a bit psychotic. Oh, well.

Roy: As hard as it’ll be to beat KGBeast, if you could game the system and pick your own made-up villain name for the show, what would it be, and what would be your plan to capture Batman and Robin?

Justin: I’d want a character whose name immediately made me think of a hook for the character: what his personality might be like, the weapons he’d use, what his motif would be, etc. I’m not sure why, but the first name that comes to mind is Chess King. I’m also not sure how I’d capture Batman and Robin, but the deathtrap seems obvious to me. Each hero would be strapped into a chair on the opposite side of a giant chess board (everything was giant-sized on the TV show for some reason) and would be forced to play chess against the other. Whenever one of them takes the other character’s chess piece, the loser would receive a shock. They have to make a move every 30 seconds or both of them receive shocks of regularly increasing magnitude, and whoever makes the last move of checkmate kills the other with a final fatal shock.

Um, I kind of scared myself there.

Roy: We’ll stop there before you get any scarier.  Thanks, Justin! See you Saturday.

This Saturday’s show is *sold out*, but never fear. We’ve just extended the run, and added 3 more shows! For times and tickets, click here.

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Guest Villain: Lauren Zinn

Holy 1960s Batman, Batman! is currently playing Saturdays at 8pm. Every show features a guest villain, and the sixth guest is Lauren Zinn. An old-school Hideout performer (one of the Heroes of Comedy) and a yoga instructor, Lauren can now be seen performing at The Hideout and with Gnap! Theater Projects, where she will be directing a run of improvised Beverly Hills: 90210 episodes. Let’s talk to Lauren!

Roy: Lauren, you’re about as un-villain like as they come. You’re calm, friendly, and you teach yoga for Pete’s sake. What dark inner demons will you tap into to play a villain in Batman?

Lauren: Oh, Roy — you flatter me. I’m far more evil than I appear. Perhaps I’ll play a character called Control Freak, who takes over all elements of Gotham and the lives of its denizens. Then when she inevitably drops a few balls, she’ll cry horribly and terrorize everyone.

Why did you guys cast me as a villain if I seem so nice? (I could also be The Deflector!)

Roy: We cast you because you’re supremely talented (more flattery! take that!). Are you a fan of the 1960s Batman show? What’s your favorite thing about it?

Lauren: Is it weird that I always kind of wanted the bad guy to win? I grew up with this show. My favorite thing about it was that every time I was told to tune back into the same bat channel at the same bat time, I honestly believed that Batman and Robin might really be screwed this time.

Roy: And yet, they always managed to escape, every time, even if it was with the help of a henchman or a conveniently timed random power outage. Alright, time to prove your villainous nature… what would you do differently? how would you put batman and robin in a trap that they couldn’t escape?

Lauren: Mind power. I’d get all Matrix on them and hide the reality that they are actually my prisoners. How would I do that? ….hypnosis! They would do my evil bidding and think they were saving Gotham all the while. Mwahahaha!

Roy: Alright, I take it back. You’re definitely evil enough to be a villain. Any parting words of warning to Batman and Robin?

Lauren: Be afraid, caped crusaders. I always wanted the baddie to win, and now I’m finally in a position to make sure that happens!

Roy: I’m sure they’re quaking in their capes. Thanks, Lauren! See you Saturday.

Buy your tickets to Holy 1960s Batman, Batman! right now. There are still a few shows left, but they’re going fast!

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Guest Villain: Shana Merlin

Holy 1960s Batman, Batman! is currently playing Saturdays at 8pm. Every show features a guest villain, and the fifth guest, and the villain for the Marathon, is Shana Merlin. She’s the founder of Merlin Works, an Austin school of improvisation, a founder of Girls Girls Girls: Improvised Musicals, and one half of Get Up, a powerhouse Austin Improv duo. Let’s talk to Shana!

Roy: As one half of Get Up (alongside Shannon McCormick, the first guest villain), you often perform awesome, epic tales. What’s your approach to playing villains in those shows?

Shana: My approach is twofold. 1) Make a big, broad character choice so I have something to hold on to when I come back to play the character in later scenes. 2) To show another side to the villain so they have moments of being human and sympathetic.

Roy: What are you most looking forward to in playing the villain for batman ?

Shana: The puns! I will PUNish Batman with my words!

Roy: What do you hope is your villain name ?

Shana: Mrs. Penguin.

Roy: why is this interview so short?

Shana: Because I am short! And evil…..

Roy: Thanks, Shana!

Buy your tickets to Holy 1960s Batman, Batman! right now. There are still a few shows left, but they’re going fast!

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The Marathon will Raise Money for Kids Classes

Jessica here. I want to tell you a little bit about why we choose to raise money during the Marathon for our Summer Camps and Kids Classes.

Let me start with Adam (name changed to avoid embarrassing teen-agers.) When Adam’s mother first called me she let me know that her 9 year old son was painfully shy, there was no way he would get on stage for the final performance, and he might just come for a few weeks and then drop the class all together.

On the first day of the class he kept his head down and let his shaggy mane of hair hide his face. He avoided the other kids, and you could barely hear him speak. But the games intrigued him, and even though he was hesitant and constantly worried about getting it right, even so, Adam is a kid and kids want to play.

So Adam learned to have fun in the games, he got better at them and even had some that he liked. He was still hesitant and looked to me constantly for approval, but he was coming out of his shell some. Most of the time when the other kids would ask him something or make a joke to him his eyes would widen in surprise and it would take him a good long time to answer. After a few weeks, he would still look startled, but then he would start to smile when he answered, and he answered more quickly.

On our final performance day he was obviously very nervous. He had asked to be only in games that involved all the kids so he wouldn’t have to do anything alone. His mother whispered to me before the show started that she was amazed that he was going to “try it.” Adam didn’t just try it, Adam pulled it off. He wasn’t the most sparkly star on the stage, but he held his own and didn’t look terrified, a major accomplishment for him. After the show his face beamed proudly as his whole family gathered around to hug him.

The next semester he came in ready to play. He jumped into the games and didn’t worry so much about getting them right. The other kids started inviting him to their birthday parties and play dates. By the end of the semester he didn’t just show up on stage, he shone. He was funny, smart as a whip, and had a beautiful slow delivery that left the audience in stitches. His mom had tears in her eyes when she thanked me at the end of the show.

Adam only stayed with us for 2 years — his music became more and more important to him. Last I heard he was joyfully playing and singing in talent shows and for family gatherings. But I feel strongly that those 2 years were something special for him and for me as one of his teachers.

Adam’s story is the story of the shy kid who comes into themselves through improv. There are other stories about loud kids who learn control, tense kids who learn how to relax, attention seekers who learn to finesse their way to the spotlight, and just plain old kids who get to play and have fun on stage because that is awesome and fun.

All of these kids need improv regardless of their parents income level. I want every kid to be able to explore and learn and play no matter what challenges they might have at home. This year my goal is to offer a spot in class or camp for every child who wants it.

And that is why I suggested that we use the Marathon to raise funds for the Hideout Youth Program. So, come see a show and change a kid’s life.

A portion of all Marathon ticket sales goes towards scholarships for kids who can’t afford classes. Buy tickets here.
You can also just donate directly by clicking the orange button.

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